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Last Windrow: Historic pioneer cemetery lives on

My two second cousins used to visit our farm this week of the year. John and Joe were bachelor farmers who lived near the little town of Pierson, Iowa. They were two of a family that featured around 13 kids.

My two second cousins used to visit our farm this week of the year. John and Joe were bachelor farmers who lived near the little town of Pierson, Iowa. They were two of a family that featured around 13 kids.

One of their younger sisters had died at an early age and she was buried in a small, family cemetery about three-quarters of a mile from our farm. They never missed a year until they were both gone.

John and Joe would pull into our farmyard on the Saturday before Memorial Day in their vintage Chevy. They never came in the house.

When my grandfather was alive, he would be sitting on the granary's cement step, cane in hand, waiting mid-morning for the two brothers to arrive.

They were the sons of his brother, Joe. Grandpa knew John and Joe would be visiting on the Saturday before Memorial Day Monday and he always sat on that step as a welcoming committee of sorts.

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The two bib-overalled brothers would slowly climb out of their car and shuffle on up to the granary to visit with their uncle. This would be the only day in the year that they would be seen far from their farm. Every year they shook hands with Granddad and my dad and even me if I were present.

Pleasantries were exchanged, news of the year was discussed. Farm talk was talked. But, their visit was only a part of their goal for that day.

Each year the two brothers would journey the three-quarters of a mile to that little cemetery on the hill to lay flowers on the grave of their long since departed little sister.

The flowers were a combination of flowers that came from around their house and whatever wild flowers might have been growing at that early spring time of year. Each bouquet was neatly gathered at the waist by a piece of baler twine and adorned with a satin ribbon. The display was the same every year.

The little cemetery had a interesting history. My immigrant great-grandparents had homesteaded our farm in the early 1870s. At the time they didn't belong to a church, hence they had no cemetery available at the time.

The land for the cemetery was actually given to the family by the landowner as a wedding gift to the young couple. A wire fence was installed around the one-half acre piece of ground and an above average metal gate was attached to the front of the ground.

Over the years my great-grandparents were both interred in the little cemetery along with some of the in-laws of the family. A young man who died in a dynamite blast was buried there and no one really knows why, but he rests there.

Others were also buried on that piece of ground but records are scarce as to who they might have been. Eventually a German Lutheran church was built with its own cemetery and the little cemetery on the hill was no longer used.

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But, it still exists today as a result of the efforts of family members.

Several years ago the family was contacted by the county. A new, improved roadway was being proposed that passed by the little cemetery on the hill. One of the plans for the project called for the cemetery to be moved to a township cemetery. The letter stated that the owner of the land had petitioned to have the cemetery removed so he would not have to weave around it on his rounds across the field.

Another reason given was the fact that the cemetery would be an impediment to the newly formed road.

At first I thought the project was going to happen no matter what anyone of the family thought, but I was wrong. After hearing from a number of family members near and far, the county engineer came up with a plan that would save the cemetery and still allow the new roadway to be built.

He informed the family that this was now considered a historic pioneer cemetery and was on record with the state and not to be altered or moved. The little cemetery remains atop that little hill with wild prairie grasses and wild flowers still waving above and around the tombstones of John and Anna Wetrovsky.

John and Joe would have liked that. Saturday of Memorial Day weekend is the day they would have been visiting their sister's grave. Maybe they still are.

See you next time. Okay?

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